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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, (it might be a bit long, please bear with me :)

It's been 3 years since I started my first malawi cichlid tank where 20 yellow lab fries and 6 star sapphire fries happily lived together for almost 2 years. They all grew really well (not even 1 death in 2 years!!!) and got me so fascinated by the behavior and coloration of these amazing creatures. Then I upgraded to this 180G and started collecting of all kind of non-predator haps/peacocks. Certainly there were lessons learned and price to pay on the journey, but I think I did pretty well, most fish are healthy over this 1.5 years period and some of them displayed really stunning colors.

But I can totally see myself getting bored after a few years. I've managed to mitigate the aggression at least for the most part and treated several sick fish and successfully bred some too. It doesn't feel challenging anymore to keep them happy. But besides watching the fish begging for food, sifting the sand, chasing each other, building nest, I want something even more natural and interesting.

I can't stop wondering if it's possible to create an environment so natural that some of the most interesting natural behavior could be observed in a tank, not a gigantic fish pond. Some of the behaviors I'm thinking of from my learnings are:
  • peacocks staying still over the substrate and eat the invertebrates hidden in the sand
  • predator fish hunting smaller fish from their hide (N. linni, mbj thick lips sucking the mbuna fries from their hides)
  • borleyi mating above a rock instead of in a sand pit
  • livingstoni play dead and ambushing small fish (this probably is just impossible)
  • moori, star sapphire following big sand sifter for food
The most natural behavior I've seen in my tank is my WC Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus sucking the leaves of my plastic plant in an upside down position.

I might be thinking too much, why not just enjoy the color and stay put right? I hope some of you already pioneered this route and was sharing the same concern before. Any suggestions, recommendations which could making keeping African Cichlid more fun are very much appreciated!!!

thank you in advance! and pictures of my fish for attention.
Fin Underwater Fish Fish supply Marine biology

Water Vertebrate Fin Organism Fish supply

Fin Underwater Fish supply Fish Marine biology
Eye Water Fin Underwater Fish

Water Plant Botany Underwater Organism

Water Fin Fish Underwater Tail

Water Purple Organism Fin Underwater

Fin Underwater Fish Marine biology Tail
Water Blue Fin Organism Underwater
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You would have to let your sand grow a bunch of organisms (not keep it too clean) to see the first. Sometimes when I disturb the sand in a spot that has been still for a while I see this.

I have read about fishkeepers who have seen their Nimbochromis play dead, but more when hiding during a water change than for the hunt.

I think you would want a large tank (6-8 feet), and one or two harems. Then customize it to the particular behavior you want to see. Morii and the sand sifter in your last bullet for example.

Even if the fish play dead just to hide is still quite fascinating! My tank is a standard 180g, 6'x2'x2'. Converting to a tank with only a few harems sounds like the way to go. I've been thinking about it for a little while, but don't know what to do with all my current fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I think people branch out into Tanganyikans for these reasons. Besides that I find a harem of mbuna behaves more naturally than my male haps & peacocks do. I also think that the typical overstocking of Malawi tanks is probably the main reason we don't see the natural behaviors as much.

I've seen several of my peacocks hover over the sand, even though i keep it very clean. It doesn't happen often though.
Totally agree with ya. My tank is not even that over stocked, 30 fish in a 6x2x2. but still I find most of the fish doesn't have enough space to do their own things. Mbuna harems is definitely something I want to try. What mbuna would you recommend? I've only kept yellow lab in mbuna.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You may want to consider some South American Earth Eaters to enjoy a "more natural" behavioral environment. My 125 has a breeding harem of Gymno balzanii with some swordtails. It is more or less a species specific tank. While the swords do not herald from the balzanii's region it represents more of what it sounds like you desire. The male balzanii spawns with all the females at different times. Watching them sift through the sand with the swords picking through their 'leftovers" and cleaning up the algae in the tank provides a lot of interesting behavior to observe. The balzanii are relatively peaceful. The male will occasionally chase females but inflicts no damage and females behaviorally feign /spar to settle their territorial disputes. A very peaceful and interesting tank to just sit and watch. There are many earth eater species to choose from and you could strive to make it more geographically correct than I did. I just like the swords as dithers as they are continually reproducing which provides free food for the community. The ones that survive and grow out can be used as dithers in other tanks or replace those that die off from old age.
I think what you are looking for while not impossible may be a lot more difficult to reproduce in Rift Lake Haps & Peacocks without getting into a much larger tank.
I really like your 125 setup. That's close to what I'm looking for, group of fish live in the same enclosure but play different roles in the food chain. I spent some time yesterday looking into the American cichlid and found them interesting. I will probably do a similar tank to yours in my next setup. thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Mbuna do not have the behaviors you have described that you want to observe. A species tank of yellow labs (25 max) would give you some natural behavior.

IMO 30 is overstocked for a 72" all male tank...I like 18 individuals in that size. But definitely no natural behavior here.
When my fish gets to their full size I will start rehome some of them. Hopefully with a reduced number I will be able to see more natural behavior. The other thing I've been thinking of is maybe start creating 2 layers in the tank, i.e. adding a shelf which covers probably half of the tank and add rocks on top of it. So it break the space into two parts, one rocky upper layer and one sandy lower layer with less rocks. Hopefully that gives the fish different terrain to explore.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
hi

!😃
You have some beautiful babies there! Wow!😃 you can actually see the healthiness off them, I'm definitely impressed and I love the idea of you wanting to be "natural" for this is what we strive for as well!😃
I know of a dealer that deals in different cichlids and I order from him allll the time. 1 time we purchased our harem of Blue Mooris. They are healthy and have been growing out sooo beautifully!😃 but I tried turning some other fish buddy onto him and they blocked me. If you could tell me a way to get ahold of you, I'd be happy to share this info with you.
Message me 😃
Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into them. I also have a couple breeder that I always go to. But for now I guess I will stop adding new fish but focus on moving them around in all my tanks and hopefully achieve something unique in the main tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Hi!😃
Okay, I hope I wasn't bothering you!😀 I just found that what you wanted to do very interesting, that's all. I just love this hobby; you know?😃
How many tanks do you own? We have 8 at this moment but will soon be adding another 2 here soon though! Our babies are "growing out" of their habitats, actually.
Not at all! that's a lot of tanks! I currently have 4 and probably will get rid of one in near future. I've spent too much money and time on fish keeping, wife started to complain. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
This hobby is rarely (never?) static, or stable. Most of us are either growing out a bit and adding things here and there as needed. Or, are slimming 'the Herd' down some to streamline things or just simplify our lives....
To do this, one of the more common things I've seen (done?) is what I like to call 'THE COMBINATION'.
That is, when you are downsizing in the number of tanks. And a lot of times, even in the numbers/species of fish.
But....
With 'THE COMBINATION' - do not be fooled! Oh no....
  • Less tanks? Can often mean (much?) larger ones.
  • Less is Better type equipment? Can often mean much more expensive - but, much nicer filtration, lighting, heaters... the works! (Eheim visit, anyone?).
  • More 'natural' looking setups? Can mean purchasing interesting-looking rocks sold by the pound. VERY nice pieces of sometimes composite chunks of bog wood. And plants? Oh my.... just gotta have that rare Anubias type to tie off onto my really cool-looking new pieces of Bog Wood!
  • And fish? The LFS has proven to merely be the Gateway Drug for this addiction! Sourcing out rarer, more interesting species online suddenly seems imminently reasonable. Cichlids you've Never Heard Of, are researched in great depth in the hopes that just maybe I'll get THAT TANK set up for those guys...
Or, as @Aussieman57 has often informed?

"WELCOME TO THE INSANITY." :p
Haha that’s so true! I was always saying that this will be the last time I redo the setup, but at the end I wanted to try something new very soon. I guess that’s because the beauty of the infinite variety of the nature. Just so many species to explore.
 
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